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December 20, 2022

11 Steps for Starting a Gift Card Program at Your Business

Merrell Sheehan

Written by:

Merrell Sheehan

11 Steps for Starting a Gift Card Program at Your Business

Offering gift cards at your business can help you enhance your revenues, expand your customer base, and strengthen customer loyalty. So, how can you get started? 

Setting up a gift card program is easy. Just take it from us at Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS). As a payment processing company and gift card vendor, we have extensive experience setting up personalized gift card programs for businesses. We’ve also seen the outstanding results.

 So, how can you start a gift card program at your business? In this article, we’ll break down the process step-by-step. 

Table of Contents

#1 Select a Gift Card Vendor

First, you need to select a gift card vendor. Many companies can produce gift cards, from merchant banks to payment processing companies like EMS. 

When selecting a gift card provider, make sure they offer the following:

  • Customized, branded card designs
  • Loyalty program add-ons
  • 24/7 customer support

At EMS, we offer all of the above. Better yet, our gift cards instantly integrate with our point of sale (POS) systems. You can rest assured that they’ll be compatible if you use both. 

#2 Customize Your Gift Card Design

Next, it’s time to customize your gift cards, so they feature your business’ branding. Customized gift cards are more fun to receive than generic-looking ones and double as mini billboards for your business. 

If you’re not a graphic designer, don’t worry. Our team of creative professionals at EMS can design your gift cards beautifully according to your branding guidelines.

#3 Order Your Gift Cards

Once your gift cards are designed, you must order a certain amount to stock your store. If the holidays are coming up, you should place a larger order than usual.

#4 Establish Your Gift Card Program Policies

Before selling your gift cards, you need to iron out your policies. This way, you can communicate them to your employees and ensure everyone’s on the same page. 

Here are a few questions to help you with this process: 

  • How are new gift cards entered into your POS system?
  • How do customers redeem their gift cards?
  • What payment methods will you accept for gift card purchases?
  • Do your gift cards have any limitations?
  • Will you offer gift cards in exchange for certain types of returns?
  • How will you track gift card purchases?

#5 Brush Up On Relevant Gift Card Laws

As you clarify your policies, you should ensure they comply with local and federal gift card laws. For instance, federal law prevents you from selling gift cards that will expire in less than five years. You’re also legally precluded from charging inactivity fees for gift cards that have been inactive for less than a year. 

Local laws are often even more restrictive, so research the rules in your region. For example, California law doesn't allow gift cards to have expiration dates or service fees.

#6 Train Employees on Your Gift Card Policies

If you have employees responsible for redeeming gift cards at your business, it’s essential to train them ahead of time. This way, your customers won’t have to deal with slow transactions. 

#7 Display Your Gift Cards Prominently

Once you’ve done the prep work, you can finally start selling your gift cards and reap the benefits. You can improve your gift card sales by displaying them in strategic locations, such as:

  • Your check-out counter
  • Alongside any gift packages you’re selling
  • Near big-ticket items that draw customers’ eyes

You can enhance sales by training your team to inform customers of gift card offerings during each transaction. Another opportune time to highlight your gift cards is when a customer is shopping for presents and seems unsure of what to buy. If a customer appears uncertain of what presents to buy for their loved ones, highlighting your gift cards is a great way to ease their mind.

To give your employees extra encouragement, transform your gift card program into an exciting competition. Offer a reward to the salesperson who sells the most gift cards within a specific time frame, whether a cash bonus, a favorable shift, or a gift card of their own. 

#8 Advertise Your Gift Cards

Another way to boost gift card sales is through advertising. Here are a few methods to explore:

  • In-store advertising – The most straightforward way to market your gift cards is to show them off within your store. Design eye-catching banners and place them in strategic positions.
  • Online advertising – Whether you want to run ads on Google or other social media platforms, online ads can help you market your gift cards to potential customers with outstanding precision.
  • Email advertising – Another place to promote your gift cards is within your company’s newsletter if you have one. If you don’t, announcing your new gift card program is the perfect occasion to start one!
  • Event advertising - You can donate your gift card to local events, such as school fundraisers or charity galas. Doing so can help you give back to your community while simultaneously getting more customers into your stores.

Some of these advertising methods may better suit your business than others.

By employing the right advertising strategies, you can make more people aware of your gift cards and supercharge their sales.

#9 Push Your Gift Cards During the Holidays

Holidays and birthdays are when many consumers purchase gift cards as last-minute gifts. Gift cards are the top holiday purchase and have been for many years. 

While you can’t predict people’s birthdays, you can give your gift card program extra promotion during the holiday season. Just prepare a unique gift card campaign for each of the following holidays:

  • Valentine’s Day
  • Christmas
  • Easter
  • Hanukkah
  • Mother’s Day
  • Father’s Day

To sweeten the deal, consider offering holiday shoppers discounts or promotions on any purchase made alongside a gift card. 

#10 Include Gift Cards In Your Loyalty Program

A loyalty program enables your customers to earn points or rewards for shopping with you frequently. One way you can encourage more sales from your most loyal customers is to reward them with a gift card once they reach a certain threshold.

#11 Track and Monitor Your Gift Card Sales

As the saying goes, what gets measured gets managed.

If you want to maximize the benefits of your gift card program, you need to monitor it regularly, just like any other transaction. Here are some gift card metrics you can track and optimize:

  • Sales
  • Revenues
  • Redemptions
  • Supply costs
  • Advertising ROI

Luckily, tracking your gift card metrics is easy when you select the right payment processing provider. At EMS, our POS system can log all of your gift card transactions automatically.

Ready to Start A Gift Card Program at Your Business?

Now that you know how to use gift cards in your business, why not start the process?

At EMS, we can help you every step of the way.

Thanks to our 30 years of experience, you can rest assured that our Gift & Loyalty Card Program has everything you need to make your gift cards successful. Our payment processing solutions can also help you save money—95% of our customers report significant savings

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